I am in NYC right now and have been since Friday the 9th. I traveled with a friend who booked return tickets, and we were scheduled to leave on the 16th. I have, however, been asked to hang out with a lot of cool people and decided to stay a little longer, so I simply didn't board the plane home with him. I have instead bought a one-way ticket to go back to Denmark on November 9th.

I'm worried, however, that this is in breach of the terms of my ESTA (which is valid for another 14 months), and that it will result in my being banned from reentering the US later on. What should I do? Is there a government agency I can call/email to show proof of my planning to leave the country?

I'm a Danish citizen and resident, and I have no plans to extend my stay further.

  • 37
    Open your passport and look at the stamp. That tells you when you must leave. Oct 19, 2015 at 20:16
  • @MichaelHampton Isn't it true that it's really the I-94 and not the passport stamp that's the authoritative record of when you have to leave? (But I might be wrong, I don't even know if all visitors get I-94s)
    – Brian
    Oct 21, 2015 at 19:07
  • @Brian Almost nobody gets an actual I-94 form handed to them. It's all recorded electronically. But the passport stamps are still there. Oct 21, 2015 at 21:55
  • 2
    @MichaelHampton Yes but you can see your electronic I-94 online, and I was told that this is still the source of truth.
    – Brian
    Oct 21, 2015 at 21:56

5 Answers 5


The US CBP (Customs and Border Protection) is uninterested in how you purchase your flights from the airline. Their only concern is that you leave the US on or before the date your stay expires. There should be absolutely no problem with your plan.

The only problem that could arise is if your approval to stay is for some reason much shorter than the normal 90 day maximum permitted with an ESTA. This would be unusual, though.

  • 9
    Permitted on the Visa Waiver Program. The ESTA is merely permission to travel to the US, it says nothing about right of entry or how long you may remain there.
    – CMaster
    Oct 20, 2015 at 2:40
  • @CMaster foreign nationals have no right of entry in the US.
    – phoog
    Oct 20, 2015 at 5:34
  • 1
    @phoog his point (I think) is that an ESTA is not a guarantee that you will be allowed into the country when you step out of the plane.
    – Pekka
    Oct 20, 2015 at 9:57
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    Most importantly it should be pointed out that "my ESTA is valid for another 14 months" does NOT mean "I can stay in the US for another 14 months". Oct 20, 2015 at 14:14
  • 1
    @Pekka웃 that is true. It is also true of visas, which similarly do not guarantee entry into the country. Similarly, Canadians, who require neither visa nor ESTA, have no guarantee of entry into the US.
    – phoog
    Oct 22, 2015 at 19:55

I actually did exactly what you described twice (didn't return on my original ticket) and have entered and left the US without any issue subsequently. No one questioned me about this when I left and it wasn't raised when I entered. The stamps said I had leave to remain for 90 days and on both occasions I left within this period.

I only add this answer because I've actually done what the OP is asking, not because the other answers differ.


Assuming that the stamp you got when you entered allows you to stay until November 9 (which it ought to, barring special circumstances): When you board your one-way flight home, the airline will transmit your passport number to the US authorities, who will then know you have left the country.

It doesn't matter to them that you had a ticket for a different flight that you didn't board -- only that you actually did board some outbound flight before the time you were admitted for ran out.

After you get home, you can verify on the I-94 website that your departure was recorded correctly. In the unlikely case that it wasn't, contact the US consulate for guidance of how to get the fact that you indeed left the US recorded properly in the system.

  • 2
    "Assuming that the stamp you got when you entered allows you to stay until November 9" If the OP entered on October 9, then his stay should almost certainly be until January 6 (90 days, inclusive of both dates), barring special circumstances.
    – user102008
    Oct 21, 2015 at 6:44
  • @user102008: Yes, exactly. Oct 21, 2015 at 6:48

ESTA doesn't figure in any of this. The terms of your stay are determined at the border when you enter the U.S. There should be a stamp in your passport with an allowed duration of stay. Check if duration of stay is available electronically on the I-94 website as well. For all the U.S. cares for, you could exit to Canada, get arctic paperwork there and walk back to Europe on polar ice later this year :)


Leaving the US on a one-way ticket should be fine. And, as per the other reply, since you will also have a stamp on your passport, you should be good.

On a different note, I personally came across an issue when I went from the US to France and came back on a one-way ticket from France. Basically, I did not use my return ticket to come back from France due to a similar personal situation as yours; instead I came back through Iceland. The authorities in Iceland pulled me and my family (my wife and three-year old daughter) aside and did some additional questioning and enquiries with other authorities. Basically, they were concerned that I did not have a record (in the same airline and transit route) of travelling from the USA to France. I was surprised that I had to spend almost an additional 45 minutes for this.

I’m not sure whether you will have a similar experience, though I guess that as long as you have proof that you travelled from point A to B and back to A, you should be good.

  • 1
    That's a strange story, because Iceland is in the Schengen area, and it is completely routine to leave the Schengen zone via a different member state than you first entered at. Are you sure the problem wasn't something like (for some reason) you didn't get an entry stamp in your passport when first arriving in France? Oct 20, 2015 at 12:20
  • I did have an entry stamp when I landed in France. so for some strange reason they pulled me aside with all kinds of questions on where did I get into Europe from. I will go check my passport again as this was some 7 years back.
    – Kumar
    Oct 20, 2015 at 15:41
  • @Kumar Judging by your name, and I don't mean any offense, this was most very likely because of your name and/or skin colour. I was recently stopped for several hours at EWR and was essentially interrogated because I looked "nervous." Sad but that's the world we live in.
    – makhdumi
    Oct 21, 2015 at 21:58
  • I am of Indian origin , and they way they were talking I think they were not rude...but again this was in 2007 so do not recollect very well...might as well be the case...adn I think they could not talk much good enlgish perhaps and that too was a bit of a barrier
    – Kumar
    Oct 23, 2015 at 17:48

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